It’s not often that the name of the U/19 Proteas captain is in the headlines. At the end of last year this was the case, with David Teeger, the current skipper of the U/19 team, seeing his name in publications across the country.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t for cricketing reasons, but rather for comments he made after he had been awarded the ‘Rising Star’ accolade at a Jewish Achievers Award dinner towards the end of last year. Teeger was quoted as saying: ‘I’m now the rising star, but the true rising stars are the young soldiers in Israel. And I’d like to dedicate [my award] to the state of Israel and every single soldier fighting so that we can live and thrive in the diaspora’.
The Palestinian Solidarity Alliance laid a complaint with Cricket South Africa (CSA), the sport’s governing body. This led to Teeger’s remarks being discussed at a CSA board meeting, where it was decided that an ‘independent inquiry’ would be instituted, led by well-known advocate, Wim Trengrove. Subsequently, this inquiry found that there was no reason to sanction Teeger in any way but it’s alarming that it came to this point.
As Anton Harber noted in the Daily Maverick while a person may disagree with what Teeger said, his comments were not hate speech. As Harber argued: ‘he (Teeger) did not celebrate genocide or express a bloodthirsty desire for revenge’.
What is more alarming has been CSA’s reaction to what Teeger said. Implementing an inquiry, as the body has done, seems to be a complete overreaction.
As it stands, Teeger is not an employee of or contracted to CSA, indeed he has played only three professional cricket matches, all for the ‘SA Emerging’ XI (basically an U/19 Proteas team). He was, at the time of his comments, also, technically a schoolboy, only having written matric last year.
CSA should have simply said: ‘We’ll have a word with the youngster, while everyone calms down to a panic.’
That said, sportsmen who do represent their country should, perhaps, keep their political views to themselves.
No current Protea, Springbok, or Bafana Bafana player tells people who they will be voting for this year or expresses their political views.
I, for one, would find it hard to still support the Proteas if, say, Lungi Ngidi expressed his support for Julius Malema and said that he too believed that, in truth, white and Indian South African were simply interlopers in this country.
At the same time, Jewish South Africans would probably feel equally uncomfortable if a Muslim Springbok or Protea said that what Hamas did on 7 October was a justified reaction to colonial occupation.
It can also be questioned whether Teeger’s remarks in support of the IDF are equivalent to supporting Hamas. I would argue they are not, but this would be a view that other South Africans disagree with, which could make it difficult for them to support a team that Teeger captains.
But as Teeger is not currently contracted to the Proteas, it’s unclear what formal codes of conduct he has transgressed.
And, when it comes down to it, Teeger’s statements were fairly milquetoast.
But it is unclear why Teeger has been taken to task for these statements. CSA seems to hold no official position on the current conflict between Hamas and Israel, and even if it did, it must be asked whether one of the national side’s players would then be expected to support it.
And it now seems that CSA has bowed to pressure from somewhere, and has stripped Teeger of the captaincy, making some vague claims about ‘safety’. But if you think CSA cannot sink lower in your estimation, read on.
CSA has dabbled in politics before. At the height of the Black Lives Matter movement CSA were supportive of what – when it comes down to it – is a political movement. There is a difference between saying ‘black lives matter’ and ‘Black Lives Matter’ – the first expresses a sentiment most right-thinking people agree with while the latter is supportive of what seems to have been in large part a cynical money-making scheme.
Before various games Proteas players were expected to show their support for Black Lives Matter through various ways, either through the customary ‘taking the knee,’ holding a fist up, or standing at attention. When critics said that the various ways the Proteas were expressing support for the movement made the team look disunited and lost, a directive was issued which said that all the Proteas had to take the knee during the 2021 Cricket World Cup. When wicketkeeper-batter, Quinton de Kock, refused to take a knee he was withdrawn from the playing XI of the morning of a match. This led to claims on social media that De Kock was a racist and probably played at least some part in his subsequent decisions to make himself unavailable for the Proteas in Test and ODI cricket (he is still available for the national T20 side).
But it cannot be right that CSA can dictate to players what their views on an issue must be. South Africa is a diverse country and even if it were not it is unlikely that eleven people from whatever background are going to have identical views on political and social issues.
But the ham-fisted way CSA deals with politics should not surprise anyone, given the rudderless manner it has dealt with the vexed transformation of sport, especially compared to their rugby counterparts, the Springboks.
The recent announcement that CSA envisions a hard cap of four white players in any national XI by 2030 makes one think that the body is more interested in playing politics than doing the hard work of making cricket a growing and sustainable game, and ensuring that the Proteas remain one of the world’s best teams.
Evidence of how these hard quotas have poisoned the game of cricket in this country was before a recent match between SA U/19 (the side which Teeger captained) and their Indian counterparts. Before a match between the two sides the team sheets were shared on X (formerly Twitter). These team sheets generally include players’ names, numbers, who are the designated captains and wicketkeepers, and occasionally their playing role, such as whether they are batters, bowlers, or all-rounders. Bizarrely the South African team sheet included the race of players.
It is not clear why this was necessary information to provide ahead of the match against the Indian U/19s. At provincial level it is a requirement to list the race of players on team sheets, which have to be submitted to CSA to ensure that teams meet the body’s racial diktats (at least six of a playing XI must be of colour, with three having to be ‘black African’).
This in itself has caused problems with teams being reported to match referees for not meeting the requisite racial requirements, when in fact they have, when a player an opposing team was thought to be coloured, for example, said he actually consider himself black African.
How long until a pencil will have to be part of a South African cricketer’s equipment, along with a bat and a helmet?
Some could argue that this quota system in cricket is a necessary evil, given this country’s history of discrimination and exclusion, but it must be asked why a person’s race needs to be written down on the team sheets of the U/19 national side. What purpose does this serve, exactly?
Despite this cricket is still in relatively rude health. The Proteas continue to give a good account of themselves, and the SA 20 competition, which recently began its second edition, exceeded all expectations last year, by turning a profit and, for the first time in years, igniting public interest in a South African domestic cricket tournament.
And much of this success seems to be despite CSA, rather than because of it.
Imagine what shape cricket would be in if CSA focused on the actual game instead of the peripheral politics around it. Perhaps the Proteas could finally look to secure that elusive first World Cup trophy?
A man can dream, can’t he?
[Photo: South African Jewish Report www.sajr.co.za]
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